Liner Failure Analysis

Are you having trouble with the liners in your diesel engine?

We're bringing you a failure analysis that can help you figure out what's going on with your liners! Read on to see if you're experiencing any of these failures.


Still have questions about failures in your diesel engine? Our ASE Certified Technicians are here to help!

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Cylinder Kit Failure Caused by Twisted Liner O-Ring

The picture below shows one of the liner o-rings that twisted during assembly in the engine. 


twisted o-ring liner | Highway & Heavy Parts
Below you can see a view of the inside of the liner pictured above. It shows a buildup of transferred skirt material at the bottom of liner caused by the o-ring forcing the liner inward.
buildup of transferred skirt material diesel engine liner | Highway & Heavy Parts
The final result of the twisted o-ring:
final result of twisted o-ring | Highway & Heavy Parts

Cylinder Kit Failure Due to Maintenance and Assembly Errors

The first picture is of two liners from a 16V149 Detroit Diesel marine engine. Note the presence of heat spots on the lower area of the liners as pointed out with the yellow arrows.


heat spots on liners | Highway & Heavy Parts
Heat spots occur when there is excessive clearance between the liner and the block. This area will have very poor heat transfer and will allow for liner movement and distortion. This can cause the liner to crack in the port area or other locations on the liner where stress loads exceed design strength.

The next picture shows the pitting (blue arrow) and scale buildup (green arrow) on one of the liners. 
Liner Pitting and Scale Buildup | Highway & Heavy Parts
Pitting and scale buildup is a clear indication that the cooling system has not been maintained and no additives or corrosion inhibitors were used. Scale buildup will affect heat transfer and cause higher than normal cylinder temperatures potentially leading to scoring and premature failure of cylinder components. The pitting can and will cause stress risers to develop in the liner, potentially leading to cracks and premature liner failure.
Are you having trouble with pitting in your liners? Read our blog, Engine Sleeve / Liner Pitting Explained to learn more.

The next picture shows the underside of the liner flange in front of the fractured area of the #5 left bank liner. Note the pits (blue arrow) and the four clean marks indicating foreign material was trapped between the flange and the block (red arrows).
Foreign Material Trapped in Liner  | Highway & Heavy Parts
The next picture shows the score marks inside one of the liners (white arrow). Scratches and some scoring are present in most of the liners.
Score Marks in Liner  | Highway & Heavy Parts
The final picture shows the crown and rings on one of the pistons; all of the pistons are similar in appearance. The white deposits are caused by additives in the oil. A perfect seal between the piston rings can never be achieved, thus a certain amount of engine oil will enter the combustion burn. As the engine oil enters the combustion chamber and burns, the residue forms an ash-like material. This ash-like material contributes to deposits in the crown above the piston ring, as well as to the deposits in the ring grooves. These deposits can lead to rubbing wear on the cylinder liner, causing the piston rings to cease operating freely. Ultimately, the cylinder liner-to-ring interface is compromised and high oil consumption can occur.
Deposits on piston  | Highway & Heavy Parts

Excessive Blow-by Caused by Abrasive Contamination During Assembly

The following pictures show the liner, piston with rings attached, and a set of piston rings that were marked: “original ring set”. After the original rebuild, the customer complained of excessive blow-by. He disassembled the engine, honed the liners and installed new rings. Upon start up the engine was found to have excessive blow-by. 
Damaged Liner  | Highway & Heavy Parts
The above picture of the liner shows deep scratches from abrasive foreign material causing a path for blow-by. This is caused by lack of cleanliness during assembly of the engine. The liner also shows where it was honed. The honing angle or cross hatch is not uniform. This will cause uneven wear.

More pictures of foreign material scoring.
Foreign Material Scoring  | Highway & Heavy Parts
The next group of pictures will show the rings marked “original ring set” set on top of the piston that has the rings installed. Please note the heavy scratch marks on both sets of rings.
Heavy Scratches on Ring Set  | Highway & Heavy Parts


Ring Set with Heavy Scratches | Highway & Heavy Parts

 The root cause of failure was foreign material contamination due to poor assembly practices and procedures. The contamination caused blow-by in the first set of rings, was not corrected, and caused the same failure condition in the second set of rings.

Flange Failure Causes

The lower part of the liner has fretting where it interfaces with the lower receiver bore in the block. Lack of support allowed the liner to move, eventually causing the liner flange to fracture.


Liner Fretting | Highway & Heavy Parts


An example of severe fretting on the lower part of the liner:


Sever Liner Fretting | Highway & Heavy Parts

Liner Flange Failure Caused by Uneven Mounting Surface

The flange is intact and has broken free of the liner. The underside of flange displays an uneven contact pattern. The un-even wear pattern on the underside of the flange indicates mating block surface is worn and caused the failure.
Uneven wear pattern on flange | Highway & Heavy Parts


Want to know more about flange failures? Check out our post on broken or cracked flanges


Improper Cooling System Maintenance 

Damaged Diesel Engine Liners | Highway & Heavy Parts
 The liners in this engine failed within 800 miles. Improper cooling system maintenance is the root cause of failure. Cooling system corrosion inhibitors are needed in all situations, even if antifreeze is installed. This liner was subjected to plain water with an extremely high mineral content. 

Liner Flange Breakage Caused by Foreign Material Trapped Under Or On Top of Flange

The impressions on the liner flange are from trapped foreign material between the liner flange and the cylinder head.


Impressions on liner flange | Highway & Heavy Parts


The below image shows foreign material trapped between the liner flange and the block surface.

trapped foreign material | Highway & Heavy Parts
The impressions on the liner flange are from trapped foreign material between the liner flange and the cylinder head.

Impressions on liner flange from foreign material | Highway & Heavy Parts


The Effects of Poor Cooling System Maintenance

The pitting caused coolant to leak into the cylinder.


Pitting | Highway & Heavy Parts


Corrosion shortens engine life and damages cooling system components. The complaint sent in with this liner was leaking liner seals.

Corrosion Damages Cooling System | Highway & Heavy Parts

Rust causes poor heat transfer and engine overheat.


Extreme Rust | Highway & Heavy Parts
Are you experiencing trouble with your liners? Highway & Heavy Parts is here to help! We carry the best quality parts to keep your engine running at its best.
Looking for diesel engine replacement parts?  Give our ASE Certified Techs a call at 844-304-7688. Or, you can request a quote online.
 Originally Posted July 21, 2017; Edited October 20, 2020